by Ryan Meehan
The NFL is unpredictable this year: The Indianapolis Colts are 0-6 and the San Francisco 49ers are 5-1. Thus proving that this is hardly an exact science and the playoffs are going to look much different than a lot of us expected.
The team that suffered the most severe injury this week was the Oakland Raiders, who lost Jason Campbell for the remainder of the season due to a broken collarbone. From everything I’m hearing today the Raiders are doing everything in their power to try and convince the Bengals to trade Carson Palmer to salvage their season. Although I’ve thought that Cincinnati’s front office has been extremely stubborn with the way they’ve held on to Palmer, I’m flip-flopping here and saying they shouldn’t make the trade because of how similar those two teams are. Think about it: Both teams are 4-2 and it’s highly unlikely either of them will win their respective divisions. That might mean that they’re going to be fighting for one of the two remaining playoff spots (the other one will likely be filled by someone from the AFC East) so it wouldn’t make a lot of sense from a strategic standpoint to essentially give Palmer to a team they might find themselves head to head with week seventeen. I’ve also heard that they are going to take a look at David Garrard, but it’s going to have to be a very long and hard look to see both where his focus has been and how much weight he’s put on since the Jaguars cut him in August. If that doesn’t work out they’re going to have to drop down to the next level and start surveying the Trent Edwards-type players and maybe even some CFL starters now that their season is winding down.
Let’s take a look around the rest of the league and see what happened in week six.
Patriots 20, Cowboys 16
Tom Brady did not have a great game in this one. But as he’s done so many times, he led his team down the field with two minutes to go and left virtually no time on the clock for Dallas to retaliate. There’s a certain awareness of the pace of the game that all of the greats have had. Montana had it, Elway had it, and Brady’s got it too. They only scored twenty points and he had two picks, but he always brings it with the game on the line. Dallas really didn’t play poorly, but they were expecting to see much more disorderly defensive schemes than what New England showed them on Sunday.
Giants 27, Bills 24
This was an awfully intense matchup from start to finish and thank God the Giants won. The two long touchdown runs that the Bills had worry me not just because New York is prone to giving up big plays, but also because both guys ran into the endzone completely untouched. But when the smoke cleared, the Giants were on top in the NFC East. Ryan Fitzpatrick made a very key mistake late in the game throwing an interception to Corey Webster on a drive that could have very easily sealed the win for Buffalo. The Giants’ problem here is you can’t always wait for the other team to make such an obvious mistake in order to set yourself up to win. You have to actually go out and put yourself in position to do so.
Packers 24, Rams 3
Other than the Jordy Nelson touchdown there was really nothing to see here. I expected the Packers to win by more but a win is a win. I thought the AJ Hawk thing was funny, flipping off his own sideline. People need to lighten the fuck up anyway. Coach McCarthy was trying to downplay the offense getting shut out in the second half, but I find it hard to believe that he didn’t give the whole “OK guys, we’re up by 21, let’s just make sure that nobody gets hurt here and still win.” I’d give that speech, it’s not like the Rams could overcome a 21 point deficit against even the second stringers on a Super Bowl champion team. And that Super Bowl champion team is the only undefeated team left in the NFL.
Bengals 27, Colts 17
The Bengals are 4-2 and playing some good football behind Andy Dalton. They won’t win the division I can guarantee you that, but at least they are giving the fans something interesting to watch. The Colts seem to get worse every week. Dallas Clark’s one handed touchdown grab was pretty impressive, but something tells me it didn’t really mean a lot to him. And I’m sure the two late turnovers didn’t perk up his mood either.
Ravens 29, Texans 14
Baltimore = Meehan’s Dark Horse. It’s time for people to start taking the Ravens seriously. Of course it’s their defense, we all know by now that’s their bread and butter. But on the other side of the football, Ray Rice is slowly making himself a household name. He’s a great all purpose back because he can run those short routes and break one for a twenty or thirty yard gain if the opposing team isn’t expecting it to be thrown this way. If I was playing the Ravens anytime soon I’d certainly point that out in the film room as a lot of teams don’t seem to be taking note. The rest of the league is doing almost everything possible to make sure the Texans are completely set up to succeed this year and finally take that next step and there they are stuck at .500 poised for yet another second half collapse. Unreal.
Buccaneers 26, Saints 20
Drew Brees became the first player to throw for 350 yards in 5 straight games, and Saints head coach Sean Peyton was hit on the sideline by one of his own players and suffered a fractured tibia. I was shocked by the outcome of this game: a big loss for the Saints here against a team which I still believe they are better than. I’m still not a huge believer in Josh Freeman. Sure he threw for 303 yards, but his completion percentage wasn’t astounding and he didn’t make any extremely impressive throws. It will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure of playing at Wembley Stadium in England next week against a revitalized Bears team. The brightest spot for the Bucs was that they got 109 yards from one Earnest Graham who was starting due to a knee injury to LeGarrette Blount.
49ers 25, Lions 19
Obviously everybody’s talking about the overhyped “confrontation” between the two coaches at the end of this game, but the real story here was the Lions losing at home where they have played very well as of late. Frank Gore was able to do this week what Matt Forte couldn’t do agains the Lions last Monday night, rushing for over a hundred yards once again. This might be a potential playoff rematch come January. It feels as if I should have more to say here but I don’t.
Falcons 31, Panthers 17
Atlanta needed this game very badly and they got it. Michael Turner ran for 139 yards and two touchdowns and their gameplan was 60% rush and 40% pass. It’s not a guaranteed recipe for success, but I think against mediocre teams that’s what they have to stick with for now. Carolina keeps losing and Cam Newton is now leading the league in interceptions. They definitely need more pieces around him to ensure that they’ll end up in the postseason at some point. He did have a pretty telling quote after the game: “At some point, you’ve got to look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what can you do to make it better,” Newton said. “I’m doing a self-evaluation as we speak. It’s not the time that you point the fingers and say, ‘It’s his fault.’ It’s time that we as a team take ownership of ourselves.” What he’s basically saying is “I can only do so much, everybody throws picks, I need a little bit more out of the rest of the squad.” He does appear to like to throw to Shockey quite a bit, and Steve Smith is still Steve Smith, but without that two headed monster in the backfield that they used to have, that puts a lot of pressure on a rookie quarterback. And the Falcons? Zero turnovers.
Raiders 24, Browns 17
One of the good things about having a reliable kicker like Sebastian Janikowski is that the opposition almost never expects you to run a fake field goal. But that’s just what the Raiders did, and it worked. As stated earlier, the Raiders lost starter Jason Campbell and replaced him with Kyle Boller, who threw for 100 yards but was unable to punch it in. The jury is still out on Boller as an NFL starter, and there’s no way Terrell Pryor is ready yet so I’m sure they have plenty of phone calls to make this week. Either way, the Raiders are doing a majority of their damage on the ground so they’re still in great position to make a wild card run.
Steelers 17, Jaguars 13
Mike Tomlin didn’t seem too amped after the end of this one, and with good reason. Pittsburgh should have won this game by WAY more than 4 points. There was a strange moment in the late minutes of this one where Troy Polamalu made a great play and suffered what appeared to be a concussion, and some dumbass (I think it was Ryan Clark) came over and knocked helmets with him on the sideline. Talk about friendly fire…yikes. The Steelers are banged up in general and that certainly isn’t going to help. As for the Jaguars, they’re going to make for an excellent punching bag for the Ravens next Monday night. (And who the fuck scheduled Jacksonville to play on Monday Night Football anyway?)
Eagles 20, Redskins 13
Rex Grossman threw four interceptions (three to the same guy, Kurt Coleman) and was benched shortly thereafter for John Beck who you won’t become familiar with as soon as the Redskins sink below .500 again. The Eagles had to win this game and although they didn’t play to the best of their abilities, they are starting to show some return on investment from some of those position players on defense, particularly Nnamdi Asomugha. I read something really interesting about him this week – he has a condition called Deuteranomaly which is a form of color blindness that causes him difficulty when it comes to distinguishing between lighter colors. (You’ll never get that five seconds of your life back) But when you look at the numbers from this game, I’d think that Philly wouldn’t have won this game if Rex Grossman hadn’t done such a shitty job all afternoon. They dominated in time of possession, LeSean McCoy rushed for 126 yards, and picked off four passes – you’d think that would add up to more than a seven point victory. I can’t put my finger on it but there’s still something really wrong with the Eagles.
Bears 39, Vikings 10
When Jay Cutler gets the blocks he needs, he can be a top-tier quarterback. He got them ALL night in this one, and the Bears looked very convincing. It was the absolute opposite of what we saw from the OL in the Monday Night game in Detroit. Cutler made some really quality throws and just like that the Bears are at sea level again. The Vikings on the other hand are a different story. They benched McNabb and finally put in Christian Ponder who didn’t really look all that bad for his first time in a regular season pro game. Now, I’m not sure if they put him in because the game was out of reach or because they thought that now was the time to make the change but from the way it looks I think they have seen enough of McNabb. He didn’t throw a poor game, but he didn’t throw a great one either even though plenty of analysts were saying he played decent afterwards. I’ve been saying Donovan’s career has been over since 2009 and I don’t know why teams continue to give him one more chance, but this is likely the end of the line for him and I don’t believe he’ll get another job. While I’m laying into the dude, he isn’t a Hall of Famer either. He also beats the shit out of his wife and he’s a horrible father. I kind of made that last one up.
Jets 24, Dolphins 6
I can’t think of a single thing that the Dolphins are doing right at the moment. To say they looked flat would be a serious understatement. Very predictable, and a bad game. Tony Sporano = Corey Hart. Jets got their passing game back but until it’s against a real challenger they aren’t stable just yet.
Overall comment for the week:
It may be out of place to point out something that something has become blown so far out of proportion, but I’d like to talk about the way the media has treated the misunderstanding between Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwarz at the end of the Lions-Niners game. It was really no big deal at all, and I say this for a couple of reasons. First, these guys just sat and coached a game where for three and a half hours guys on the field beat the living hell out of each other, and you mean to tell me that one guy walking over to another guy and patting him on the back only to have the other guy go “What the fuck was that for?” was the biggest story of the week? That’s insane. The other thing that you have to remember here is that now more than ever coaches are younger and closer to the ages of those playing on the field. A lot of them are only about a decade removed from the field so it’s easy for them to get so excited about a win in what was a very big game. I just didn’t see the whole thing as being that big of a deal, but that didn’t stop ESPN from shoving it into our eyes and ears for the following twenty four hours. The media gets a big fat fucking F for this one. Between that and the coverage of FOX’s camera crew capturing AJ Hawk giving the middle finger to the sidelines, week six was more like a reality TV show than stack of football games.
Let’s hope that next week is devoid of any such meaningless drama.
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